press release

PRESS RELEASE: I am Keats as you are by GLENN PEIRSON
Edited and compiled by Mary Peirson and Ellyn Peirson


I am Keats as you are: one man’s journey to final enlightenment.

In his immortal spirit, … as free
As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait? … [JK]



Glenn Peirson died too soon, much too soon, stricken by a fast-spreading sinus cancer and leaving our world in November 2009 at 44. He was a husband to Mary and a father to Theodora and Henry. He was a doctor with a thriving practice in Cambridge, Ontario – and he was also a musician and music-lover, an athlete, a writer, a poet and a deeply spiritual man. Glenn Peirson, as a friend described him, was a true Renaissance man, a man of compassion, intellect and deep passion.

His battle with cancer (the “beast,” as he called it) extended for three torturous, draining years. There was surgery, and there was chemotherapy and radiation treatment, but the beast was unrelenting in its attack on his body. It killed Glenn Peirson, but it did not defeat him. As he wrote to his friends and family in the weeks just prior to his death: “We are always open to your questions, concerns, gestures and good-will. We are, as always, allergic to pity and despair . . .”

Peirson’s battle with cancer lies at the heart of a newly released publication entitled I am Keats as you are (a poem title), a mixed reference to the Romantic poet John Keats and the Beatles. The heart of the book, edited and structured by Peirson’s widow Mary and his mother Ellyn, is a compilation of Peirson’s own poetry and the hundreds of letters he sent to family and friends over the course of his struggle with cancer in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Some of the letters and poetry relate to Glenn’s cancer experience. A large number do not. The publication concludes with a chapter of poetry and Peirson’s prose written in the years prior to the diagnosis. This is a powerful, passionate, highly personal book about a view of the world. It invites the reader into an exploration and provides insights garnered along a brief, beautiful, fully-walked path.

To suggest that Glenn Peirson was indefatigable would be an enormous understatement, for he retained his trademark sense of wry humour to the end of his days. “Please understand,” he wrote a few months prior to his death, “the tall, hooded fellow with the black robe and boney fingers and long sickle isn’t hanging around me. He might be in the other room, but I would just as soon find him and throw him out of the house head first . . . ” And again, just nine weeks prior to his death, he ended a note to family and friends with this marvellous perspective on life and living: “Until we next communicate, we wish you the same revelry in life’s many unsplendoured and often-overlooked day-to-day jewels.”

One of Glenn Peirson’s many friends is Howard Dyck, a noted Canadian conductor and former CBC Radio host. He wrote of his accomplished friend: “He was a rare one, was Glenn, a perfect blend of saint, clown, philosopher, pixie, artist, scholar. All of us who were privileged to know him are immeasurably richer for having walked with him.”

I am Keats as you are is Glenn Peirson’s parting gift. It will be especially treasured by those individuals and families who have themselves known the emotional and physical struggles of coming to terms with the essential, unanswerable question: why? There is humour at work here – and there is defiance, too. There are rare moments of despair – but there are also hope and optimism in the author’s expression of his enduring will to live. And there is love – a man’s love for his strong, courageous wife, a father’s love for the two children and the family he will leave behind. And there is love of life itself, a life that was all too short for a man who had so much more to offer.

“The mind contributes independently of the body
and then beyond
it is the soul of very existence
allowing navigation through the bones
and then beyond the bones as they turn to dust.”

From “Bag-of-Bones”, August, 2009.

I am Keats as you are
by Glenn Peirson
Edited and compiled by Mary Peirson and Ellyn Peirson

ISBN: 9780986741104

3 thoughts on “press release”

  1. The Spiritual Physician

    Friendships often begin inauspiciously. I first met Glenn Peirson at a small gathering of church people seeking some guidance on planning for their future. Glenn attended the meeting as co-chair of the congregation’s Ministry and Personnel Committee. I had come as a volunteer consultant. As I learned that night, communication with Glenn was always easy and always invigorating.

    Circumstances over the following months led to my accepting an invitation to become the interim minister of the congregation. Glenn, who was a little more than half my age, suddenly became my ‘boss’. What a joy! What a privilege!

    Through many conversations by phone, in person, and through e-mails, the association blossomed into a friendship. Chats that should have focused on personnel issues wandered off to favourite choral and instrumental works, the future of the church, much-loved poetry, the meaning behind ambiguous passages of scripture, favourite foods, and on and on.

    How I treasured those chats, knowing that I was only one among many receiving the spiritual and intellectual largesse of this man; and knowing also the deep struggle he was having with the advancing cancer.

    He honoured me at one point, by sharing a selection of his poems. I sat for a full evening, reading them over and over, at times shedding tears at their beauty and directness. One, entitled ‘Jesus loves – this I know’ (October 7, 2005), lies carefully folded in my wallet. It has become a mantra of hope.

    Thankfully, Glenn’s gift of poetry, coming from a life and faith so fully lived, will now be available to a wider audience.

    the Reverend Dr. John Ambrose

  2. The Poet:

    on: That makes us dream:

    Seeking all his life to articulate and celebrate the abundant manifestations of God in our human lives, Glenn reveals much about his love of his fellow sojourners in “That Makes us Dream” as he explores his soul’s journey through music towards an understanding of eternity.

    I love how, after his thesis in the first stanza, he opens with an invitation for us to “Sit on the edge of my futon / in the dark / and listen”, which paves the way for the sharing of his thoughts throughout the poem. We are participants in his passion even if we (read “I”) lack his deep knowing of the works he cites. And in that second stanza, too, he reveals the depth of his passion: “… is it possible not to pray when / immersed in this sound world?” and we learn more about him, the poet and the man. And then he leads us, comradely, back into his life, into the beginnings of his immersion into music as we share with him Bach’s “Dona nobis pacem” in his “1970s paneled basement bedroom” – and so, forward through time, and the musical moments which fill his soul and “catch the heart off guard and blow it open,” (Heaney) often weeping in ecstasy.

    And to the near past in which the ecstasy of music is so healing that it is “emptying [our] hearts / of any misgiving in life” and transporting [us] / freed of any medical tether, tenuous bond of mortality”, thus preparing us, the sharers, for the absolute of music in all things mundane – as well as preparing us for eternity. And sharing in the almost-anguish of “Sander’s Reproaches”, only to be raised up again in the assurance of justness and rightness: “Lord, You have done nothing / You have not offended.”

    And on to the future, reflected in the present, when his daughter “plays his Little prelude in E minor” and we are there too to witness “the communication of sheer beauty” in her love of Bach.

    It is as if this glimpse of the future catapults him, the poet and the man, again into the past from his singing of “Allegri’s treble” (and is there a more divine piece of music on the planet than the “Miserere”?), to “Beatlemania” and then he pulls us helter-skelter – and there is an urgency in the reminiscences here – to those venues which were the gateways to allow him to feel, sing, articulate his passion and to connect him with his “companions Bede and Cuthbert” and later his “musician son” (“quirky in-his-own-world”): Ely Cathedral, the Chapel of King’s College, Durham Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and the Abbey, St. Martin in-the-Fields.

    And so to return to his thesis through the primary focal point of his passion – Bach – and to conclude that “light comes through a path connected to darkness / darkness is never avoided / in fact, Bach will always explore darkness / sadness, grief, loss, waywardness / In this he connects us to every human being / and then elevates our sorrow and despair / through music of the most utter beauty.” As he makes this soul-centred discovery, we are there too, as he has invited us to be all along, in “the sound [that] goes out / …comes back eventually and surrounds you / enfolds and bathes you with its / ambient richness.” We are partners in this journey of discovery because the man and the poet have asked us to be. And it’s a bit like voyeurism, except that we are so deeply grateful for having been invited to glimpse into the soul of a good and great man. This shared journey transports us, too, “beyond the mere “participation in music / to the ephemeral.”

    And what shared sadness, yet what exaltation in the knowledge that “there is no conclusion, denouement” in Bach’s “Kunst der Fuge” except to know that the “mysterious final fugue” – like the poet/man’s life “is left floating away like a balloon” into the certainty of eternity.

    I thank him for this companionship, for his friendly, loving arm across my shoulder, for his confidence in me, the reader, for his love.

    Evelyn Dunsmore
    June, 2010

  3. The Music Man:

    On October 5, 2009, Glenn wrote in one of the last of his many inspired and inspiring emails which I and many others received from him, “If I could negotiate my survival, I would not (yes, honestly) give up the cancer experience. Though, I have had enough of it now (vast understatement), and definitely do not recommend it to others!” He concluded that memo with these words which are imbued with the optimism, the fortitude and the boundless faith which always defined this remarkable father, husband, brother, son, colleague and friend, “We are always open to your questions, concerns, gestures and good-will. We are, as always, allergic to pity and despair. We are blessed by family in all its iterations and thank you for all you are to us… Love, Glenn et al.”

    Where do I begin in trying to sum up my friend Glenn Peirson? He was a rare one, was Glenn, a perfect blend of saint, clown, philosopher, pixie, artist, scholar. All of us who were privileged to know him are immeasurably richer for having walked with him.

    Glenn had a very big brain and an even bigger heart. He was funny, smart, profoundly spiritual, and highly literate. He was a genuine Renaissance man. He was Glenn and he was as true and loyal and intense a friend as anyone could ever hope to have. We experienced that in our family just very recently. Our daughter had quite suddenly taken critically ill and for a number of days her very survival hung in the balance. Disregarding his own ravaged condition, Glenn came to the hospital, and, in a most touching manner, asked the staff about her condition and the treatment she was being given. He then proceeded to comfort us. After that he went home and wrote a beautiful, eloquent, heart-felt set of poems, Kris poems (a set of 3 poems for Maggie and Howard) which Kristine and all of us in our family will treasure as long as we live. And he put together a compilation CD of many carefully-selected excerpts from the works of Bach…choral, organ, solo instrument, keyboard, even something sung by Bobby McFerrin. Glenn gave it a title – “For H&M (Howard and Maggie) B-A-C-H: Belief, Affirmation, Care, Healing”. Over the years we have received many gifts of books and recordings from Glenn and Mary. This last one from the hand of a friend who knew that his own days were numbered is especially precious because it gave us strength and sustenance and courage and serenity during a very difficult time.

    It was Robert Schumann who said that heaven gave us music so that the soul could beautify itself. Glenn Peirson’s soul was indeed beautiful. He nourished it with the love of his family and friends, with his deep and abiding faith, and with the finest music that our civilization has been able to muster. His life was itself a symphony of grace, passion, love and generosity. The reverberations of that sublime music will be with us for a very long time.

    Johann Sebastian Bach’s towering St. John Passion concludes with a chorale which in its majesty and searing insight transcends time and space. The words are a fitting way to say “Auf Wiedersehen” (till we meet again) to our friend. We mourn his loss, and we celebrate his altogether remarkable life.

    “O Lord, let your dearest angels
    At the final end carry my soul
    To the bosom of Abraham;
    Let the body in its chamber
    Meekly, without pain or suffering
    Rest until the judgment day.
    Then awaken me from death
    That my eyes will see you
    In all joy, O Son of God,
    My saviour and my mercy throne.
    Lord Jesus Christ, hear me,
    I will praise you for all eternity.”

    Howard Dyck
    November, 2009

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a man for all seasons